Him Again?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 21, 2012

This was supposed to be the calm after the storm. We've just finished a wild year on the local political scene: Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren faced off in the nation's marquee US Senate race; a down-and-dirty North Shore congressional battle pitted John Tierney against Richard Tisei; Joe Kennedy III gave us the first campaign of the famous family's next generation; and of course former governor Mitt Romney ran his down-to-the-wire presidential quest out of North End headquarters.

With the dust settled, Boston's political insiders were looking forward to a quiet 2013 — a municipal election year, with Boston's Tom Menino expected to cruise to re-election. But, barely a week after the November 6 election, the Massachusetts political world was right back in the maelstrom.

Two deepening mysteries were responsible.

First, the Washington Post reported early last week that President Barack Obama is considering US Senator John Kerry for his second-term secretary of defense.

This unleashed a torrent of near-hysterical telephone and text activity about potential candidates for a special election. Kerry was known to be eager to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, but reporting and rumor suggested that he would get passed over again, this time for Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. The Post article re-opened the possibility.

At around the same time as that Post bombshell, the Boston Globe dropped another: Mayor Tom Menino, already in the hospital for two weeks dealing with a viral infection and blood clot, had "suffered another setback" with back pain and would remain at Brigham & Women's indefinitely.

All of a sudden, political insiders were gossiping about who was planning to run if the 69-year-old Menino can't. A press conference on his behalf fanned the flames. "Insiders are going crazy over his health [and] re-election prospects," one campaign operative told me.

Of course, neither race might actually materialize. But it feels like the campaign cycle never ended — oh, and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray essentially kicked off the 2014 gubernatorial campaign last Thursday, with a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce speech that all but declared himself a candidate. It seems like everybody in town is gearing up to run for something.


Brown has signaled that we can expect him to return as the GOP standard-bearer if Kerry does leave — even though, should Brown win, he'd need to defend the seat in 2014 (when Kerry is next due for re-election), putting him through four tough statewide campaigns in less than five years.

The indefatigable Brown is one of the few people who would be undaunted by that prospect. One of his top aides, Jerry McDermott, posted on Facebook shortly after the Post article appeared: "Team Scott Brown. Hope you had some much needed rest. Looks to be a busy 2013 and 2014."

Democrats are mostly talking about the usual suspects — members of Congress, former congressman Marty Meehan, those who have run before — because the shortened timeframe of a special election probably makes it too hard for anyone else to raise money and gain traction against Brown.

But if they were all to take a pass, there could be an opening for lesser-knowns to vie for the chance. State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield, Fall River mayor Will Flanagan, former New Bedford mayor Scott Lang, Suffolk County sheriff Andrea Cabral, and businessman David D'Allesandro are names being tossed around.

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